Apparatus Specifications: Documentation and Delivery Manuals

Bill Adams

The day the new rig showed up, the delivery engineer carried in a cardboard box containing a small three-ring binder, a couple of loose-leaf folders, a bunch of eight-by-10 papers jammed into two manila envelopes, assorted CDs, and a half dozen soiled installation booklets. He said, “Here’s your documentation and delivery papers.” He was telling the truth. Although there was neither rhyme nor reason to the hodgepodge in the box, it was 100 percent compliant with the requirements of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus. And sadly, it fully met the fire department’s purchasing specifications-as it wrote them. The fire department, as many do, was anticipating a couple of large three-ring binders as its delivery manuals (also referred to as service manuals). The delivery engineer said, “You didn’t spec them; you don’t get them.” He was right again.

Generally accepted definitions of a manual include it being a guidebook, a handbook, and an instruction manual. Most fire departments expect oversized three-ring binders containing all the “paperwork” that comes with a new fire truck. Don’t hold your breath. First, the NFPA does not require a delivery manual per se. The word manual does not appear in the standard. It is not required or even defined. Second, the NFPA does not say you will specifically receive paperwork. It says you’ll get “documentation.” Purchasers should be aware of the scope and depth of the documentation and the different forms in which it can be delivered. The cardboard box is one of them.

The intent here is not to split hairs, disparage the NFPA, ridicule vendors (the apparatus manufacturers, dealers, and sales personnel), or criticize the local vernacular a fire department may use when writing purchasing specifications. The objective is to make purchasers aware and to present options available to make the documentation part of the apparatus delivery process run smoothly.

NFPA 1901

NFPA 1901 sentence Operations and Service Documentation states: “The contractor shall deliver with the fire apparatus at least two sets of complete operation and service documentation covering the completed apparatus as delivered and accepted.” Everyone in the fire service knows the intent of that statement. Although the intent may be met, the documentation delivered with your new rig may not be exactly what you expect, how you want it organized, or in the format you desire. A set is defined as a group or a collection. It does not necessarily mean a large three-ring binder. If you didn’t specify one, you may not get one. You lose.

Sentence describes the minimum contents: “The documentation shall address at least the inspection, service, and operations of the fire apparatus and all major components thereof.” That makes sense. Sentence, Definitions, further defines documentation as “Any data or information supplied by the manufacturer or contractor relative to the apparatus, including information on its operation, service, and maintenance.” That can encompass an immense amount of documentation-some of which may not have a direct bearing on teaching firefighters how to operate the rig or showing the mechanics how to maintain and fix it. Should those ancillary documents belong in your operation and service manuals? Consider having the manufacturer separate all documentation by function.

Regarding format, most people consider documentation to be physical paperwork-the kind that’ll fit in three-ring binders. Don’t count on it. Sentence 4.19, Documentation, states: “Any documentation delivered with the apparatus shall be permitted to be in a printed format, electronic format, audiovisual format, or a combination thereof.” So if you don’t specify what you want, manufacturers are free to send your documentation in whatever format they want. Write your specifications accordingly. It may be judicious to check the preferences of your training and maintenance officers and repair shop foreman. Most likely they will be frequently accessing and using that information. And if you really want large three-ring binders, say so.

Buyers, beware. The NFPA 1901 Annex emphasizes the importance of the purchaser and contractor agreeing on format. It specifically notes that if an electronic media type format is used, your computer software and hardware may have to be upgraded to keep up with changing technology. Ask your computer people how often computer upgrades occur or may be required over the lifespan of your new rig. It seems illogical that you would have to perform computer maintenance to access your fire truck’s maintenance manual. Good luck with your document storage and data management.

Define and Simplify Your Manuals

Many vendors and purchasers quote NFPA 1901 verbatim when specifying operations and service documentation. That’s OK. Often, regional and local terminology such as maintenance manual, service manual, operational manual, training manual, repair manual, and instruction manual are used to describe the same thing. That’s not illegal. Call it whatever you want; just make sure the vendor understands what you want in it. Sometimes, all documentation is collectively lumped together and referred to as the “delivery manuals.” That’s OK too. It is irrelevant what you call them. Unless your verbiage explicitly addresses what you want, where you want it, and how you want it, you are going to get what the vendor uses as a standard.

As previously suggested, separate documentation by function. It could make your life easier. You could specify two separate manuals with titles similar to training and maintenance and repair. Simply put, everything dealing with “how to operate” your new fire truck goes into the training manual. Obviously a repair manual can include just data on “how to fix it” if it breaks. Most mechanics probably would appreciate their own “fix it” manuals minus all the sales hype and specification gobbledygook.

There can be an animated discussion on whether to have a separate maintenance manual addressing the care and upkeep of the rig-everything that should be done to keep it operating efficiently. It could depend on when and where maintenance is done-daily, weekly, in-station, or at the shops. Some in the fire service hierarchy want firefighters to be intimately familiar with all the intricate mechanics of their equipment. That has merit. However, some do not want rank-and-file firefighters having access to “how to fix it” info for fear they might really try. That is a local matter-do what’s best for your own fire department.

Again, it is immaterial what you call your operations and service documentation. You have the option to separate it into separate manuals and into formats of your choice. Be fair to the vendors. Ask them what is standard and if “nonpaper” formats are available. Major component suppliers usually have their own proprietary service manuals and, in most cases, what you see is what you get. Ask. Remember-if you call a manual by a unique name, your specifications should say exactly what you expect to find in it. Be simple, concise, and precise, or have fun working out of that cardboard box.

Other Required Documentation

There is a plethora of other NFPA-mandated certifications and documentation that are required to be delivered with the completed apparatus, including important and legal documents such as certifications and warranties. It may be advisable to have them consolidated and stored separately from the training, maintenance, and repair documentation.

One fire department’s specification requires a training manual and a maintenance and repair manual. The remainder of the required documentation is to be supplied separately in what it is calling a “Delivery Manual.” The department defined it as follows:

• Two (2) copies of a Delivery Manual in a three-ring binder shall be supplied containing all NFPA- and purchaser-required certifications, documentation, and warranties.

• The sequence and order of the documentation in the Delivery Manual shall follow the sequence depicted in the “Fire Apparatus Delivery Inspection Form” in Annex B of NFPA 1901.

• The delivery engineer and a representative of the purchaser will jointly complete and sign a separate copy of the “Fire Apparatus Delivery Inspection Form” in Annex B of NFPA Standard 1901 prior to final acceptance. A signed copy shall be in the Delivery Manual.

• Maintenance, service, operation, and installation documentation are not to be included therein.

This proposed Delivery Manual is not intended to verify a bidder’s compliance to the technical nut-and bolt portions of a purchaser’s specification-use the contractor’s bid package for that. It is a tool intended to collect, consolidate, and verify compliance to all of NFPA 1901’s documentation and certifications required at the time of delivery. Bear in mind, even if a purchaser does not specifically spell out each NFPA 1901 requirement in writing, the manufacturer still has to conform to it. Don’t be surprised if you receive documents you didn’t specifically call for. The aforementioned fire apparatus Delivery Inspection Form on pages 1901-171 to 1901-174 should be required reading for apparatus purchasing committees.


This Delivery Manual can be the place to keep all the warranties together. “But, I bought my fire truck from a manufacturer who provides sole-source warranty coverage.” That statement has a degree of merit when the apparatus manufacturer outsources the cab and chassis. Discounting the chassis cab and body work, guess who warranties the motor, transmission, alternator, paint, axles, tires, steering gear, fire pump, valves, water tank, cab seats, foam system, generator, light tower, warning lights, siren, fire pump engine governor, deck gun, electrical load manager, ladders, and so on? It’s not the manufacturer that built your truck. Your vendor may, and should, administer and coordinate all warranty work. The work may be performed in his shop, but the warranty is issued by, and warranty claims authorized by, the manufacturer of the product in question. There can be dozens of warranties somewhere at the bottom of that cardboard box. Put them in one place with the other “important” documents.

Certifications and Documentation

Throughout NFPA 1901, there are num-erous places where the manufacturer is required to supply certifications or documentation that the entire unit, or some part, meets an NFPA or similar designated standard. Concurrently, third-party test results are required for certain components. Can there be many? As a start, certification of stepping surface slip resistance, tank capacity certification, warning light system certification, siren certification, documentation for alternator performance at idle and at full load, tank-to-pump flow documentation, low-voltage alarm test certification, electrical load analysis documentation, third-party certification of electrical line voltage testing, certification of load capacity for access steps, and documentation of the reserve capacity test for the electrical system are a dozen that should be kept someplace safe and accessible. You may need them someday.

Where can you find documentation that your new rig is compliant to the stability requirements of NFPA 1901? Where do you find certification that the front and rear axle weights meet the limits set by the chassis manufacturer? Where do you keep the load distribution plan that was delivered with the rig? Where are the weight documents from a certified scale of the delivered apparatus? Do you keep them in the same place as the results of the third-party testing of the fire pump? Or, are they with the as-built wiring diagrams, with the blueprints, or somewhere in the pile of material safety data sheets required for the various fluids on the rig? Can you put your hands on all the documentation required in Sentences 4.20.1 and 4.20.2? You might want to read them. You should know what you are supposed to be looking for.

This advocated Delivery Manual may be a suitable location to keep a “clean” reference copy of your purchasing specifications, the contractor’s bid specifications, as-built blueprints, and copies of change orders. It can be an excellent resource for material for the next purchase. Should there be a failure of a component part, warranties should be readily accessible. If the fire department becomes subject to litigation where the vehicle is involved, rapid access to certifications and documentation can be equally as important.

Before you authorize payment for a new fire truck, make sure you received what you are asking the taxpayers to pay for-including the operations and service documentation. Caution-if you still keep all your records in that cardboard box, keep it dry.

BILL ADAMS is a former fire apparatus salesman, a past chief, and an active member of the East Rochester (NY) Fire Department. He has more than 45 years of experience in the volunteer fire service.

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